Berry with skipper Gullit (with cup) and Ronald Koeman
The Class of 1988 had some sensational players. Known all over the world. Some. They became cosmopolitan superstars. Ruud Gullit’s face and hairdo are known over the globe. San Marco lived in Milan, lived in Monaco, has coached the Dutch team… And icon. Frank Rijkaard is still living the high life.
There is that category of world class players who moved to the highest echelons in their field, without becoming moviestars. We’re talking the likes of Ronald Koeman ( Barcelona) and Jan Wouters (Bayern Munich) for instance, Hans van Breukelen and Aron Winter (Lazio).
Adrie van Tiggelen, John van ‘t Schip, Gerald Vanenburg, Erwin Koeman, John Bosman, Wim Kieft, they all become valuable players at mid-level European teams. Kieft had a great career at PSV after his Italian adventure while Van Tiggelen became invaluable for Anderlecht.
One player never really set the world on fire. Although he played every minute of that Euro. And won numerous titles with PSV. And won the European Cup I.
And while almost all others became coach at some stage (most still are), this lad remained in football but for a long time as unpaid supporter coordinator. Not the coolest job, compared to Marco’s national team manager role or Van Breukelen’s management position at Utrecht.
We are talking about anti-hero Van Aerle. The simple rural kid from Brabant. “I’m simply Berry”.
Oh how he was the butt of many a joke. They made him pay contribution at PSV. When he was winning the European Cup! Some more worldly chaps ( Kieft? Lerby? Gerets? Breuk?) told him that they found out he had never paid his club membership fee. The poor Van Aerle was in shock and raced to the admin with his wallet in hand to pay his membership fee hahahahaha….
We know everything about San Marco, Ruud Gullit, de Breuk, Vaantje, but what do we know about Van Aerle?
Was he in the team because he was so funny? So handsome? So great a card player? No! He was in the team because he was an awesome defender. A block of granite. A rock. And fast. Strong. Tenacious. Relentless. And his biggest strength was that he knew exactly what his weakness was.
The NRC Handelsblad published this article, which I will harvest and use for your pleasure.
Berry with the cup
Van Aerle is all no nonsense. No frills. He wakes up on the morning of June 25, 1988. In the room he shares with Wim Kieft. A small room, this time. In the rooms he visited earlier in the year ( in Istanbul, Vienna, Bordeaux, Madrid and Stuttgart) it was possible to play keepie-up. Well, not for Berry so much. As he was never able to play keepie up. But Marco and Gerald could play keepie-up. Not in this room. There is the knock on the door. Michels likes discipline. 9 am breakfast time.
Berry is a simple lad. No superstition. No women underwear. No rituals. The jersey number means nothing to him and the spot in the dressing room? He can’t be bothered.
The only time he could be bothered was when PSV came to scout him in Helmond. He somehow fumbled his words and coach Jan Reker thought he was a left winger instead of right back. Reker shrugged his shoulders and put turbo Berry on the left flank. The speedy Van Aerle was sick of nerves but scored twice.
Van Aerle’s dad works at Philips (naturally) and sells flowers on Saturdays to be able to buy Berry his boots. When he makes his debut at PSV he starts out well, but when PSV snatches up Eric Gerets, the young back is benched and later loaned out to FC Antwerp. Van Aerle has a top season there and PSV demands him back. Van Aerle actually refuses to go. He loves it in Belgium. Mocking, the little back returns to start a successful period in Eindhoven. He plays in midfield in the 87/88 season, in front of Gerets, and wins the treble. The third club ever to do so. National Cup, title and Europa Cup 1.
In his debut for Oranje in 1987, he breaks out twice on the right flank to cross twice on Gullit who scores twice against Poland. Nice.
Van Aerle remembers the preparation for the Euro1988 as “troubled”. The PSV players all arrived late at the training camp, due to the European finals. Van Basten had injuries in his face ( cheek bone, brow, ankel) as a result of a “friendly” between Milan and Real Madrid. Frank Rijkaard was still at Zaragoza in Spain and Gullit was exhausted after his Milan season. Jan Wouters was injured.
But we all know what happened next. Berry did feel responsible for the USSR goal in the first game, but San Marco and Lady Luck helped Oranje reach the finals, to play the USSR again.
Michels had the players sitting in a U shape. He sat in front of them. They talked briefly about the tactical topics for this match. A tighter team, 2 players up front. 8 players playing closer together. Assistant coach Nol de Ruiter talked through the set pieces. And gave relevant info on the opponent.
Michels would then walk past all players to look ‘m in the eye and convey some words. When he stood in front of Berry, he called him “Barry” (Berry was used to that) and merely looked him in the eye. Berry didn’t need more.
Before the tournament, the players had given Michels an expensive watch, as the coach would retire after this stint. Michels told the players: “Guys, if you lose this finals, I will hand you back the watch.”
The players go back to their room after having had their lunch. Berry lies on his bed, to listen to his favorite band, the Golden Earring, playing his favorite song: Radar Love. Live. The 17 minute version…
In the Munich Stadium, Berry inspects the field. The two right flanks. He is impressed with the Oranje fans on the stands. In the dressing room, he slips on the jersey. It is a very smooth material, this time. Most people don’t like this particular Oranje jersey.
Van ‘t Schip said: “We look like gold fish. But as long as we are winning, we will wear it.”
Van Aerle likes the shirt. It’s the Dutch colours, it’s the Dutch shirt. Ergo: it’s beautiful.
Van Aerle listens to the national anthem. He doesn’t sing. Gullit is standing next to him and Gullit does sing it. Loud. Van Aerle adores his skipper. The Amsterdam born and bred who played in Rotterdam and Eindhoven. Never for Ajax. Gullit keeps the group together, Gullit deals with the media and the football association. And more than anything, Gullit “manages” the dynamics between the city boys (Bassie, Schippie, Rijkaard, Wouters, Vaantje, Breuk) and the rural kids ( Suvrijn, Van Aerle, Van Tiggelen)…
The game starts and the normally so cool and collected Berry started badly. Let a ball slip under his foot, and like his mates, he loses possession to easily. USSR is stronger, again, and plays attacking football, putting Holland on the backfoot.
Then, the 31st minute. Erwin Koeman corner kick. The ball is cleared, back at Koeman. The Russians open up the off side trap, but it fails. The ball is swung in from Koeman’s left, Van Basten flicks on and Gullit heads, no SMACKS the ball behind Dassaev (nickname The Iron Curtain). The game changes. Oranje get more confident. And the game becomes more aggressive.
In the second half, Van Aerle gets a yellow. He still doesn’t know why. He is the most rightsided guy in the Dutch wall and most likely the ref feels the players are stalling. Van Aerle wants to have a go at the ref but remembers De Ruiter’s words: this ref doesn’t like being talked to. So Berry swallows his frustration.
54th minute. The Russians come forward yet again, but Van Tiggelen moves in front of the defence and intercepts. A simple pass on Muhren. Whose pass is overhit. Michels is captured by another camera, mumbling “what the hell…” to De Ruiter. But the infamous ankle, the Van Basten ankle, taped in… Taped fixed to the boot almost. The ankle that will stop Van Basten’s career before his 30st birthday, that ankle lifts the foot…. And he hits the ball. While Dassaev makes a step forward, expecting a cross… And the roar from the stands is deafening.
One of the few action pics of Berry. Most photographers focused on the more charismatic Gullit and Van Basten
Van Aerle sees Vanenburg with a hand in front of his open mouth. Van Basten runs victorious towards Van Aerle’s right flank. Berry wants to grab Bassie’s jersey but misses him. Rijkaard catches Marco, followed by Wouters. Van Aerle and Vaantje arrive together. Wouters says something, but Van Aerle can’t hear him. When Bassie replies: “I don’t know, I don’t know…” he can deduce what the midfielder wanted to know…
When the USSR is able to come back into it, it’s Van Breukelen who adds heroics to the already heroic day. After 90 minutes, finally, Oranje has its trophy. Michels, loser in the same venue in 1974, can retire.
Van Aerle was never “the first” or “the one”. Van Aerle is Buzz Aldrin. He was the second player to congratulate San Marco against West Germany.
He was the second to come onto the field in the finals, Michels was not lifted on his shoulders at the end of the campaign and the cup was not between his legs on that famous “This is a good bunch” photo but between Wouters’ legs, right next to him.
He was also the second to go up to the stands, behind Gullit, to collect his medal and the cup. When Gullit raised the cup, the stadium exploded. And when Gullit turned around, the cup moved smoothly into Berry’s hands. Right at the moment most photographers were ready after applauding the Dutch captain. And so, it was Berry’s finest moment. Raising the cup next to skipper and friend Gullit.
Berry van Aerle was European Champion.
After the EC, Berry played 24 more international games for Holland. He also won 3 more league titles with PSV. In 1994, he left PSV and played one more season for Helmond Sport in the Jupiler League, allowing him to ride his bike to games. A bad knee ended his career at 33 years of age. After playing football he became a mailman in his hometown. He seemed to be the only Generation 88 player not to do anything in football, until PSV asked him to come and do supporter coordination in 2001. Since 2008, Van Aerle operates as scout for PSV.